BHP coal miners to strike

Miners at BHP's Dendrobium coal mine will take industrial action on Friday.

According to the mine supervisors it comes "after exhausting all other options and having tried to negotiate with BHP for more than five months".

Margaret Buchanan of the collieries staff division of the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia (APESMA) said "no one takes industrial action lightly; but after five months of negotiations mining supervisors have no other way to BHP to take their concerns seriously".

However the move has been labelled as 'irresponsible' by Illawarra Coal president Tony McDonald, according to the Illawarra Mercury.

It is the second such strike in action in two months, after workers carried out a two week strike at BHP's nearby Appin coal mine.

Fifty supervisors walked off the job after the pay dispute with Illawarra Coal, a subsidiary of BHP Billiton, was not resolved.

The workers were fighting for a pay increase of 18 per cent to align with ‘market adjustments’ as well as a 4 per cent rise each year as part of a new enterprise agreement.

The major stumbling blocks in the latest dispute have been the same requests to increase mining supervisors base rate of pay in line with NSW standards, and to have guaranteed increases rather than discretionary increases.

McDonald stated that the timing of this new industrial action was poor.

"At a time when the coal industry and other sectors are under considerable pressure, industrial action by mining supervisors who represent only 6 per cent of the Illawarra Coal workforce will only cause uncertainty to the Appin and Dendrobium mines, other employees and the broader Illawarra community," he said.

McDonald went on to state that Illawarra Coal mining supervisors were paid in "the top 25 per cent of equivalent roles across the coal industry".

"Mining supervisors received a competitive salary adjustment just four months ago and the company has proposed additional increases to various allowances in its offer.

"Our very low level of turnover for mining supervisors across our operations, and the strong demand for these positions with the company, is evidence that we have the balance right."

Buchanan rejected McDonald's claim, saying "Dendrobium mining supervisors are currently on one of the lowest base pay rates in NSW and their request to have their base pay rate brought up to NSW standards has fallen on deaf ears.

"There's no question that BHP – give its massive size and profitability – can afford to pay these Illawarra workers their value."

She went on to say that the workers "are extremely disappointed that BHP is refusing to take this issue seriously" and that there is a "growing level of ill-feeling among employees who feel their hard work and loyalty is not being recognised and valued".

The strikes are set to commence this Friday, and consist of ongoing bans on working non-rostered overtime and any communication/consultation that commences before the 30 minute pre-shift consultation and/or occurs after the 15 minute post-shift consultation.

Mining supervisors will not work shifts on Friday or Monday, and will also carry out one hour stop work meetings on Tuesday.

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